Knowledge is Power.....Right?

[TW for Self Injury (SI) and fat hatred]

I've a couple of blogs that I frequent and read every time they're updated, and one of these is Danceswithfat, a Size Acceptance blog run and maintained by Ragen Chastain (as she describes herself: Dancer, Choreographer, Writer, Speaker, Fat Person). For me personally, Ragen's been an inspiration. I like being active, and I like moving, but for so very long I've let myself believe that I'm not 'allowed' to be out and about (cause, you know, fat in public and all), and certainly not allowed to do things I enjoy, such as dancing. But watching and reading Danceswithfat helped me to love my body and realize just how much it can do, and how much it wants to do. Fat, not fat, I love myself and I deserve to do things I enjoy. So thank you, Ragen. Thank you for continuing on under an onslaught such garbage such as this.

The post describing the hate (or rather some of the comments following it), is what prompted this blog entry. I won't quote them here (since you can read the comments in that link), but these are the arguments that are generally made on FA/SA blogs by people who 'aren't quite on board with FA/SA'

-Michele Obama's Let's Move campaign is helping parents gain knowledge about nutrition!

I feel like with this statement, there's usually a lot of unexamined privilege floating around. First and foremost, let me get this out of the way before someone tries to say "OMGURAGAINSTNUTRITION". I'm absolutely, completely, and without a doubt for nutrition and health- but I'm also able to see and understand the underlying complexity that inhabits nutrition and health. The biggest problem I see with big 'campaigns' such as Let's Move is the misguided theory that 'Educating Children and Parents' will somehow solve all the Nutrition Problems (and by extension, all Obesity Problems- cause obesity can only come from Poor Eating, like Everyone Knows )

*takes a second for ya'll to reset your sarcasm detectors*

I'm all for education. It's what lets me read an article/study/etc and determine what it's really saying, see what the study it aiming for, and see who funded it. Education's great- but education is not by any stretch of the imagination- the biggest or best way to promote nutrition. Besides the fact that it's quite insulting to assume that all parents have no idea what constitutes nutrition (yes, there are some who don't have the knowledge of what nutrition is, but my point is that anytime you lump people into groups with terms such as all or none it's bad news), it completely ignores the underlying socioeconomic problems that many people face in regards to nutrition for themselves as well as their children.

There are places all over the US* which are known as food deserts- places where healthy and affordable food is difficult to obtain. Here's a map, for those who wish to see what areas food deserts effect. For these places, no amount of pure knowledge will help their nutrition. Let me say that again. With emphasis. For these places, no amount of pure knowledge will help their nutrition. No matter how much the Very Helpful People, try to 'educate' (again to emphasize the actual amount of people who 'need' to be educated is supersmall- as if there are no media/world messages about food and nutrition at all) the residents residing in these areas, they will still lack the money and ability to acquire the healthy food from which they're 'supposed' to get the nutrition from.

Also, I find it sad and a bit disturbing (but not shocking) that Those Who Would Educate, don't realize just how much time factors into the decisions of food-buying. Especially in this economy, people are (generally) spending their time looking for work, or working as much and as many jobs as possible simply to put food -any food- on the table. And honestly, after all that working and shopping and stress of everyday life they (they being mostly single parents, which is mostly made up of single mothers) simply don't have the time or the energy to prepare the healthy food.

"But they should work harder cause it's worth it and whowillthinkofthechildren and they're bad parents if they don't do this one thing," you say? Or my personal favorite (and something that was told to me over and over again by someone I admired once) "You don't find time, you make it." That right there is privilege talking. "But, I did it, so why can't they?" you ask? Then I direct you to read about bootstraps here. It's just more privilege talking.

-But I have Binge Eating Disorder and thus I gained weight, thus everyone must have Binge Eating Disorder, also known as "Fatties just need to stop eating their emotions or find something to replace the eating with"

I really really hate this 'argument' for a variety of reasons. First thing that comes to mind is, again, the 'this is my life experience and thus it must be your life experience too' which happens a lot (at least in reference to obesity) from people who are in the lower weight portion of the weight-cycling from diets, people who are in the 5% of those who can lose and keep off weight for a period of 5 years or more, or people who are attempting to recover from/have recovered from DE or an ED. No one's life experience is the same, and no person speaks for all people, and again, lumping a group of people into one category and labeling it is dangerous thinking.

This sentiment also attempts to ignore the idea of nutrition as a variable and completely individual phenomenon. What is healthy (and what the definition of health is) for one person in one moment, is different for another person, or the same person in a different moment. And here's where I break out my life experience as an example of a different perspective:

I am a severely disordered eater. This resulted from growing up in a severely anti-fat and anti-women culture and household, and from suffering all manner of abuses from 'friends' and partners, including emotional, verbal, mental, and physical abuse. I have PTSD, an anxiety disorder, and have flashbacks and panic attacks. I have cut, smashed my head into objects, taken pills, bitten, and ate in a disordered manner. Compared to all the other coping mechanisms I have used, I used my disordered eating in order to be healthy, disordered eating was and is my way of keeping myself from unhealthy practices. (And, you know, I'd call keeping myself alive a healthy choice, just sayin') And no, changing coping mechanisms doesn't work for everyone (and for those it does work for, it's not generally an 'overnight change), and no, it didn't work for me. And while yes, I've personally been able to talk and vent and do what I can to get out of the triggering situations (having a healthy relationships works wonders for that), I resent being told that my personal choice for keeping myself healthy is bad because of some arbitrary definition of 'health'. I am alive and as healthy as I can be right now, and that's what matters to me- and each individual is perfectly capable of making their own decision about their own health (using their individual definition of health), and no one else has the right to judge anyone else on those decisions.

*I know there are places all over the globe that are food deserts, here I'm just speaking of the US ones because the Let's Move campaign effects the US, and I happen to live in the US.

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